As you may know, Junipers are what gives the popular alcoholic beverage Gin it's flavor. There are over 50 varieties of Juniper. It is most often found as a shrub but can be a tree as in this case. Junipers can have either pointy sharp branches or braided-like scale branches. The berries are actually cones of the female tree and can come in different colors but most often blue. I will call them berries for simplicity's sake. My find was over 20 feet tall with braided-like scale branches and small blue dusty berries. The white dust on the berries is actually yeast and can be used to make a yeast starter for bread.
|Junipers in December.|
The type of Juniper most often used to flavor Gin is the Juniperus communis or the Common Juniper. It is usually found as a low spreading shrub and has needle-like leaves. This was definitely not the trees I found. So I was looking for a Juniper tree that grew naturally (not an unusual variety intentionally transplanted). It also had to thrive on rocky hills. I narrowed down the possibilities to Juniperus scopulorum (aka Rocky Mountain Cedar) or Juniperus virginiana (aka Eastern Red Cedar), two common Junipers found in the southeast United States. Both are edible, but after closely studying the photos of the two, I believe the trees I found are Juniperus virginiana. Go HERE for more descriptions of types of both of these trees.
There is one variety of Juniper that I found mentioned which is toxic. It is the Juniper sabina. It is an imported low-growing shrub and also known as a stink bush as it emits a rank odor when leaves are crushed. It can be most commonly found in Europe and Asia. The trees I found are not of this variety, but you should certainly confirm any that you find are not as well.
Juniper berries are considered a seasoning and a little goes a long way. It has a sharp clean flavor and goes well with meat, particularly wild game. It is also often found in many European dishes and was once used to flavor their beer. Cabbage and potatoes are also frequently seasoned with Juniper. It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and native Americans for it's medicinal qualities. It has been known to treat numerous diseases such as indigestion, gout, urinary tract and bladder infections and inflammations, sore throat, and colds. It has diuretic and antiseptic qualities. It contains high natural insulin and is used as a topical medicine for skin problems such as acne and warts. It has also historically been used in traditional herbal medicine to stimulate menstruation and childbirth. Pregnant women should avoid it.
You can freeze them or dry them but the berries lose flavor the longer they are from harvest. Here is the recipe that I used which turned out great:
Cranberry and Juniper Glazed Pork Roast
1 pork loin
1 half pint or 6 tbsp cranberry sauce
1 tbsp juniper berries, crushed
1 tbsp port
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sprigs of fresh parsley and sage to garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2. Roast the pork following the instructions on the pack (depends on the weight). I roast my pork in an Emeril cast iron smoker which imparts a fantastic flavor and makes the house smell great, however you can just bake in the oven if you prefer. For my roast to be completely cooked, I roasted it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours covered.
|Pork Roast in Cast Iron Smoker.|
|Heating the cast iron smoker on the stove to ignite the wood chips placed beneath the inner pan.|
|Once smoke begins on the stove, place smoker in the oven and roast.|
3. Meanwhile, mix together the cranberry sauce, crushed juniper berries, port and seasoning, to taste.
|Crushed junipers with spoon and half pint of cranberry sauce previously canned.|
|Cranberry juniper sauce.|
4. Around 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, spoon half the glaze over the pork joint, return the meat to the oven and continue to roast for the remainder of the cooking time.
|Pork roast before glaze. Marks are from the cast iron lid.|
|Roast with glaze.|
6. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and sage (optional).